Monday, May 9, 2016

We all fall down like

Toy Soldiers
Director : Daniel Petrie Jr.
Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, Louis Gossett Jr., Denholm Elliot, Andrew Divoff
Released: April 26, 1991

Remember that Martika song from 1989?

Won't you come out and play with me?
Step by step,
heart to heart,
left, right, left
we all fall down like toy soldiers

Who doesn't remember that song? It's amazing! Unfortunately, this song has nothing to do with the movie as it isn't even played during it! Toy Soldiers the movie wasn't named after the song, but rather after a book it's based on...which I had no idea it was based on book and I've seen this movie many, many times. There is no way this movie would ever be made today because it's about terrorists taking a boarding school hostage. 

A post-Goonie, pre-hobbit Sean Astin plays Billy Tepper, a student at the Regis Prep School for boys who doesn't have a handle for authority. This is the third school he's been to as he's been kicked out of the other two. He sells alcohol to students by mixing vodka with peppermint schnapps and creme de ment so it looks and tastes just like mouthwash so no one will be none the wise. (There must be hardly any vodka in it if everyone says it tastes exactly like mouth wash because I feel like you would be able to tell if there was vodka in your mouth wash!) He hooks up a phone device he got from Radio Shack so he can call 1-900 numbers and talk to sex-phone operators. He (with the help of his friends) moves all the furniture from the Headmasters' office (we're talking couches, chairs, a huge desk, bookshelves, a globe, a phone, a bunch of books, and a rug) outside and places it exactly how it was in the office. 

Dean Parker (Louis Gossett Jr.) refuses to kick him out because he believes that's what the boy wants. Instead he punishes him with washing the pots and pans in the kitchen after meals and keeping a strict eye on him. While the dean is away, taking the confiscated alcohol off the property to confront the cop who has a brother who has a liquor store and most likely sold the whiskey to the minor, the school is overtaken by terrorists. Leading the charge is Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff) who is demanding the release of his father. They are from Colombia, so naturally, his father was sent away for being a major drug dealer. He overtakes the school because he wants to kidnap the son of the judge who is overseeing his father's trial who attends the school. However, the authorities have gotten to the kid first and took him to a safe location. While the other terrorists are "securing" the school grounds with explosives and placing men with guns at certain posts so nobody can go in or out, Headmaster Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliot) tells Cali that the boy he is looking for is not at the school and he doesn't know where he is. One of Cali's men finds proof the Headmaster is telling the truth. By the way, what exactly is the difference between a headmaster and a dean? 

Since Cali's initial plan doesn't go exactly as planned, he just keeps everyone hostage. He does let the faculty go, except for the Headmaster and the cooks (hey, terrorists still gotta eat!)  One faculty member is killed when he tries to escape the initial takeover. Cali and his men do a headcount of everyone for a total of 92 hostages. He tells the students they will be allowed to go out in the courtyard, but they need to be in the dining hall every hour on the hour so he can do a headcount and make sure everyone is accounted for. He threatens that if one person is missing, then five people will be shot and if two people are missing, ten will be shot. This guy is one of the most lenient terrorists I have ever seen. If I was ever taken hostage by a terrorist, I'd want it to be this guy. Let me tell you why:

Is anyone else getting a LotR
vibe from this scene? 
Billy and his group of friends (which also include Wil Wheaton and Adventures in Baby-Sitting's Keith Coogan) decide they're going to do something about the situation and gather as much intel as the terrorists as they can. They learn how many men there are, where they're stationed, and what kind of weapons they have. They write all this information down in a notebook. While one kid is doing their research, he's paired with a buddy who can give him a signal (like coughing) if a terrorists comes to close and might see the notebook so they just quickly turn the page and act like they're drawing or working on a school assignment. Once they have all the info they need, they have an elaborate plan for Billy to escape, deliver the notes to the FBI, then return all within the hour. To do this, Billy breaks the window to unlock a door that is hidden from view from the terrorists. This is to be timed with one of his friends kicking a soccer ball and breaking a window. He runs through the school and escapes through a window at the front of the school. He hides behind a car and waits for his friends to distract the two guys on the roof with a remote control airplane. Amazingly this works and Billy is able to run across the lawn. If the terrorists had turned around, they would have plainly seen a kid running away! Cali takes over the toy plane and radios the two men on the roof to tell them to keep an extra eye out on things. When they turn around, Billy is no longer in sight. I have no idea how he knew where the FBI team would be, but as he's running through the woods, he's caught by them and patted down. He tells them he escaped from the school and gives them his notes. They want to keep him but he pleads for them to let him go back, but they refuse. He talks with Dean Parker who is also there and tells them he needs to go back or people will be killed and the dean tells the officer to let him.

Meanwhile back at the school, his friends are looking very worried because there's only one minute left before the headcount begins and there is no sign of Billy. Even though he has taken one of the Jeeps from the FBI to make up for time, he is still running quite late. He runs through an underground tunnel that has water running through it and gets soaked in the process. This time he manages to escape the eyes of the men on the roof when Coogan leaves a cigarette burning by a smoke detector and the fire alarm goes off and they go inside to investigate it. While entering through the window, Billy takes off his clothes. He grabs a towel and apologizes for being late, that he didn't hear the bell signaling it was time for the headcount.

Okay, so the reason why Cali is the ideal terrorists to be held hostage by is because he did the headcount at least four times! Most terrorists would only count once, then kill the five people without a second thought. After the fourth count, he does begin to randomly pick five people, including the Headmaster, to be killed, but luckily Billy comes in then and nobody is killed much to everyone's relief. Billy, however, is severely punished with a whipping. 

Cali decides to let Wil Wheaton's character, Joey Trotta go because he respects his dad because he's a New York mafia boss. Instead of being happy about this, Joey doesn't want to leave his friends behind, but Cali has one of his men escort him off the premises. While doing this, Joey punches the man and takes his machine gun. He fires at another terrorist outside but manages not to hit him even though he must have fired 100 rounds. The terrorists kills him right in front of Billy's friends and classmates. Oddly enough none of the terrorists take the gun that Joey was holding until AFTER Billy and the others have run up to his body. Either they didn't see the gun or didn't take it because they knew they would be shot.

Billy and the others come up with a new plan. Cali is wearing a device around his wrist, that, if he pushed the button, will detonate the entire school. It is a last resort measure he plans to take should anyone from the outside try to come in and rescue the boys. Billy wants to switch the chip that's in the bomb located in the Headmaster's office with the chip of the confiscated toy airplane that is also now in the Headmaster's office. To do this he needs the help of a younger boy who can tell him how to switch the chips. They crawl through a vent from the bathroom to the Headmaster's office. To distract the terrorists, Coogan has an asthma attack that lasts exactly the amount of time that is needed for Billy to switch the chips. These terrorists are so dumb because they don't even give it a second thought that they might be getting duped here. And why do they need all of them hovering over him?

Billy manages to switch the chips with a few uncertainties since there's no red chip like the younger kid said there was going to be, but it was the blue chip and nothing explodes. They make their way back to the bathroom through the tunnel. Their signal is if there's running water, then it is safe to come down. However, a terrorist came in to use the bathroom while a kid was posted at the sink. He makes the kid leave and while the terrorist is washing his hands, Billy and the other kid think it's safe to come down. Luckily the kid who was posted at the bathroom sinks told one of Billy's friends a terrorists was in the bathroom and he comes in to knock the terrorists out and Billy and the kid manage to get the gun away from him.  

Meanwhile, somehow, the FBI have also planned their attack accordingly even though they have no way of knowing from the inside that Billy had switched the detonator's chip. Cali has captured Billy after he has ushered the kids into the basement. (Is it secret? Check! Is it safe? Check!) He pushes the button on his wristband, but nothing happens. Right before he is about to kill Billy with his gun, FBI agents and Dean Parker break into the office and a bullet is put through Cali's head. I should mention this movie is Rated R and does not shy away from its graphic content! 
As I mentioned before, I've seen this movie several times. The first time I saw it must have been in the mid '90s when my brother rented it. I watched some of it with him, then watched it later. It's one of those movies most people don't know exist so you should definitely give it a watch if you're not familiar with it.

Oh, and if for some reason you're not familiar with the Martika song of the same name, you must listen to it:

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